Past the hanging pictures of previous plays, vending machines and the callboard of the Wise Cultural Arts building lies the green room. Voices drift from a circle of students standing outside the back doors while they collectively chant a string of strange sentences. Preparation is underway.
“The tip of the tongue, the lips and the teeth…one black bug bled blue-black blood, but the other black bug bled blue.”
These odd sentences may be used as vocal warm-ups for the actors and they are just a small part of what a theater student at Tyler Junior College goes through in preparation for a show. These exercises plus other techniques help an actor to become more comfortable and believable on stage.
One main step that an actor is advised to go through is character analysis. With this step an actor must read the script and take notes on specific statements made by or about their character. According to the book Actors Basic Training 101, any quality that can be used to define a human can define a character.
After a play has been cast, students often sit in the Jean Browne Theater bent over scripts, highlighters in hand, studying line after line.
“You have to get a basic understanding of who your character is….what direction he might go into, the changes he goes through from the beginning to the end and how he gets there,” Cory Finzel, a TJC sophomore, said.
To begin preparing for a role, the actors make a character sketch of the person they have been cast to play. This sketch includes the character’s age, weight, height and other mannerisms that this person may have. The actor must visualize the way this character would walk, speak and function in everyday life.
Most character choices are made by each individual actor with the guidance of the director of the show. This is why the same role can be interpreted in many different ways. Actors focus so much on getting into character and making the right choices because they want to be believable as that person.
“Something very important is finding out who your character is, what he wants and what is in his way of getting it,” Josh Eguia, a TJC sophomore, said.
The students acting in the show also focus on finding their objective. They hear this phrase a hundred times during rehearsals and this repetition clearly defines the phrase’s importance. Actors are not encouraged to just do something random while on stage just because it looks theatrical. There has to be a reason for them to make certain choices with their characters and the reason they do it is their objective.
“Events in her life that she has witnessed are important for understanding who she is at the point I’m playing her, because our past affects who we are and how we react to handle situations…to tell her present story, I have to know her entire story,” Bridie Corbett, a TJC sophomore, said about her character in Fall of Troy.
Many theater students have certain rituals they perform before each show to help get them into character. Some students turn to music to help them prepare for their upcoming performance. Before a show, students might huddle in a corner of the green room in full costume, earphones dangling from their ears, seemingly oblivious to everything but the iPod clutched in their hands.
“Music really kind of helps me focus. It draws out all of the outside distractions and makes me focus on my character,” Finzel said.
Other actors use seclusion to help them prepare for a performance.
“Before I went on stage I sat alone and put myself mentally through what my character had seen before I could be in the right mindset to tell her story,” Corbett said.
Superstitions also make their way into the theater as a form of preparation. Certain names are not permitted inside the walls of the theater. One such name is Macbeth. Shakespeare probably never thought that the name of one of his most famed characters would be banned in a theater. Students are adamant about this rule since this name is said to bring bad luck into the theater. Inside the theater, Macbeth is referred to as
“The Scottish King” when discussed among students. Many people are very cautious when it comes to this name. “That’s something I don’t even trust my- self saying even out of a show. Or out of the theater, I still don’t say it. I don’t want to risk it personally,” Finzel said. If a person slips and says this name out loud, they are supposed to go outside of the theater, spin around three times, spit over their shoulder and yell out a curse word.
This is said to counter the bad luck and prevent the theater from any hardships that would have been brought along with the name.
“It’s an easy fix,” Finzel said with a small shake of the head. “But I still don’t want to take the chance.”